Prototype is a good episode which does everything by the book. The plot is a manifesto in defense of the Prime Directive, and the story could have been five minutes long if Janeway had listened to the most sensible person aboard the USS Voyager, for once: Tuvok. But let’s start from a brief sum up of the story.
The episode starts with a brilliant direction choice, and I wasn’t surprised when I found out that the good Jonathan Frakes was behind the camera, as he had recently finished his seven years run as commander William Riker in The Next Generation. We approach Voyager with a subjective shot of an android adrift in space. It gets teleported aboard, and B’Elanna Torres does everything in her power to reactivate it; Tuvok warns that it could be dangerous; and Janeway doesn’t listen to him and authorizes the half Klingon to proceed. Obviously, she succeeds and the android turns out to be Automated Unit 3947 (Rick Worthy), and it claims to have suffered an accident while working as a miner on a meteorite.
Janeway decides to reunite 3947 with its peers, but this turns out to be a mistake as 3947 kidnaps Torres to teach it how to… procreate. The androids are anything but friendly and almost destroy Voyager without any hesitation. The Starfleet ship is once again at the mercy of its enemies (something similar happened during Maneuvers due to Seska’s wit), but luckily another ship full of androids arrives to fight the first, thus allowing Tom Paris to save Torres.
But in reality there’s a strong theme in the episode and it’s motherhood. B’Elanna Torres creates a working prototype and thus opens the door for all the other androids to continue creating their own kind. Except that androids are war machines and it turns out that not only do they have no issues about fighting each other, but they’re ready to exterminate anyone who becomes an enemy to them. After all, they are responsible for the extinction of the race that created them! Come to think of it, it’s an episode that closely resembles What Are Little Girls Made of? (Season 1 of The Original Series): the background story is the same, and even the design of the androids is very sixties-style!
Back to the episode, Torres eventually understands the importance of the Prime Directive in the hardest way possible, having to destroy what she had given birth to. In short, it’s a good episode, and even the weekly space battle is made interesting by the fact that Voyager is crippled within seconds. Ciao!
PS: B’Elanna’s reference to Data when talking to 3947 made me shiver, I grew up with The Next Generation!
PPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shoutout: I found the episode dedicated to Prototype splendid, with Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang welcoming Rick Worthy as a special guest. He talked at length about his entire experience in Star Trek, and it’s an interesting one!
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